Lynnsey Ooten and Brandon Garegnani team up with JR Infinite Productions in SCRiBBLES, a new web series tackling the effects of depression on creativity. Depression affects one in ten American adults. It can alter your mood, appetite, and physical wellbeing. In a way, mental illness can make you feel like you’re not in control of your own body. Even your favorite things feel like a chore, and you barely have the energy to get out of bed. And yeah, this can put a damper on anyone’s creative process.
SCRiBBLES follows Larz Workman, an illustrator in New York City living with depression. Larz is struggling to complete a work project when his latest creation comes to life. Throughout the series, we see Larz trying to overcome setbacks in both his personal and professional life, hindered all along by the titular Scribbles.
Drawn To Life
Every creator has a dream to see their imagination brought to life. Larz comes to regret that almost immediately. After feverishly designing an outcast fairy for a children’s book, she comes to life as a violent, hyperactive ragamuffin named Scribbles. The relationship between the two is at the heart of SCRiBBLES, as the titular fairy seems to represent all of Larz’s doubts, insecurities, and general neuroses.
Series creator Brandon Garegnani plays Larz. He suits the closed off, neurotic character to a tee. Garegnani captures some recognizable tics in his portrayal, like fingernail biting and avoiding eye contact. He was at his best in the quiet moments of the opening episode, when Larz was on his own. With the arrival of Scribbles, Garegnani gets a chance to show off his wilder side.
Jeane Reveendran‘s performance as Scribbles is the highlight of the series. She’s hyper, unpredictable, and downright insane. Her relationship with Larz is tense. She wrecked his home in the name of inspiring him. No spoilers, but she stabs someone at some point. Her energy only emphasizes Larz’s apathy, and the two play off of each other in just the right ways.
It’s All About Aesthetic
Director Lynnsey Ooten brings a strong visual style to the world of SCRiBBLES. She’s at her best when she’s working with the absolute insanity of her lead character’s fantasy world. Paint splatters and hard lines define her style. Before Scribbles appears, Larz is often either completely isolated in the frame, or completely crowded by the hustle of the city. Subtle techniques like this are sprinkled throughout the series, lending a better understanding of the character than what we could get from him just saying his feelings out loud. Season one of SCRiBBLES only covers the first day of the characters’ time together, but their chemistry and interwoven stories give it a good sense of pacing and space.
The design of Scribbles herself is phenomenal. While Larz worked all night to design her in the series, she’s brought to life in the 3D world by costume designer Heather Carey and hair and makeup designer Charles Zambrano. Both deserve special credit for translating a cartoon into such a neat costume look! Zambrano’s work is especially fun, with ink smeared across Reveendran’s face and arms resembling contouring.
How SCRiBBLES Confronts Depression
Personifying mental illness is nothing new. Likewise, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character is a tale as old as time. Often times a character like Scribbles just coaxes our hero out of his depression. She will show him the childish wonderment with which she sees the world, and reignite his imagination in the process.
Not so much with Scribbles. She’s not here to help Larz out of his depression, at least not in a way that wouldn’t be fun for her. She embodies everything Larz is trying to avoid: childishness, irresponsibility, and destruction. He’s just a guy struggling to keep his life as simple as possible. As Scribbles destroys his life, it becomes more and more clear what she’s meant to represent. Scribbles is a personification of Larz’s depression and self-destructive tendencies. She brings out the worst in him.
She had him screaming in public, running around his house, and – worst of all – shouting at a barista. SCRiBBLES the series shows us how Scribbles the character is ruining his life in pretty obvious ways, but also shows how Larz isn’t really doing himself any favors. He purposely avoids answering his sister’s calls, even though he knows there’s a family emergency. His only interaction with the outside world is his daily trip to the coffee shop, where Scribbles is the only one who can convince him to stand up for himself.
So while Scribbles is obviously meant to represent Larz’s depression, the series also makes an interesting point about the actions we take that can send us further and further into our own pits of despair.
Final Thoughts On SCRiBBLES
SCRiBBLES is one of the few shows I’ve seen that really tries to understand the life of a commercial illustrator. Larz’s home setup, his comments about wasting one thousand dollars worth of paint, and his struggles with his editor are all familiar. As such, his depression and isolation became even more believable. That is to say, when you see how his career works, it becomes obvious how he fell into his rut. With captivating characters, a relatable conflict, and solid acting, SCRiBBLES is off to a great start! Be sure to watch it all as it premieres on the official website and support a fantastic team of creators!
(Special credit to Malloree Hill for all the beautiful promotional photography and Hana Hwang for the gorgeous illustrations used in this article!)